I’m pretty sure we have more than our share of typography nerds in our readership, myself included. So when I saw Volkswagen was planning a change to their corporate font, I was interested — VW has been remarkably consistent with their strong typography over the years, so this change better be good! Sadly, it isn’t.
Volkswagen’s corporate font — used for almost everything but the chrome badging on the cars — has been Futura (well, now technically a Futura variant called VW Utopia), starting from Volkswagen’s legendary Doyle Dane Bernbach ad campaign from the 1960s. Futura is a sans-serif Bauhaus-inspired typeface that’s based on a perfect circle. It’s clean, rational, geometric, friendly, and has a certain logical modernity that we’ve come to associate with the best European design. Really, it’s an ideal typeface for Volkswagen, which is why it’s survived for such an incredibly long time.
Until now, of course. Like so much of VW’s recent designs, the new typeface is blander, more forgettable, and much harder to pick out of a crowd. Sort of like, say, the new Passat. VW’s press release says that the new font is
“more contemporary, less geometric and features dynamic contrast”
... which is true for the first two, and that third “dynamic contrast” thing just sounds like the usual PR bullshit. They also go on to say that the new typeface is
“inspired by VW’s distinctive vehicle design.”
... which I guess is accurate, if we take “distinctive” to mean “getting blander.”
I’m being a little harsh — I like the latest redesign of the Beetle, and the Golf is still quite handsome, but the new Jetta and Passat lack the distinctive, geometric looks of previous generations — looks that synched very well with the Futura typeface, now that I think about it.
The old Futura stood out. It had that circle-and-vertical-bar lowercase ‘a’ that you don’t see so often. You could look at the title of an ad or brochure and know immediately you were dealing with VW.
This new font, designed by MetaDesign, is called, simply ‘Volkswagen Text.’ Which seems like a fitting name. It’s not like the font is actually bad, as such — it’s clean and you could argue it has better readability — which it better, since VW is planning on using it on all dash and center stack controls soon. I’m sure for most people, it’ll be just fine.
But that’s all it’ll be.